Spirit

1 Timothy 3 – Part 2

I have been thinking about my last post, specifically about what the implications are of this interpretation. As many of you know I attend SEBTS College. We have an office here called the Ministry Referral Office (MRO). Basically, if you want to be a pastor you write out a resume with your educational and experiential credentials and give it to the MRO. The MRO then finds a church (lowercase c denotes the institution-not the Church Body) that is looking to hire a new pastor and submits your resume for you. I am pretty sure this is the basic method for most protestant denominations.

This is what I am challenged with, if my interpretation of 1 Timothy 3 is correct, if the overseers and deacon’s are the Christians who act according to obedience to God, how does some random church know that? If I desire to do the work of an overseer and submit my resume to a church how do they know whether or not a meet these qualifications set by Paul?

It occurred to me that only the Church family that you gather regularly with should know you well enough to know if you are a not addicted to wine, not pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, etc. It seems natural to me that an overseer should be raised up from the local church to oversee that same church. Someone who is living by faith in God recognized by the Christian standards set by Paul and affirmed by those who he gathers with on a regular basis.

What are some other implications this might have on the Church and church as a whole? Does this end “vocational-ministry”?

What do you all think?

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6 Comments

  1. Lew,

    You certainly brought up a critical issue that has plagued many a denomination for years. I will say that several of the other Protestant denominations do have a more rigorous system for “placing” a pastor, or “calling” a pastor, than does the SBC. The Methodists, Prebs, Anglicans, and Lutherans all use a hierarchy structure that extends outside of the local congregation to confirm a congregation’s choice or to appoint a minister to a congregation. Baptists see this as to restrictive and in violation of the democratic authority structure present within its churches.

    All that said, I agree with your diagnosis that there is not enough relational oversight concerning the appointing of pastor/elders and there certainly needs to be some reform of this within SBC churches. The concept of indigenous elders is certainly a valid and preferred way of resolving this issue but unfortunately this option is not always a wise or practical option. Location, maturity, and the general life circumstances of the congregants of various churches sometimes necessitate the acquiring of a pastor from outside of their own flock, and sometimes I think that we can agree that the Lord just simply has a certain man in mind for a group of people that may not be from among them.

    In summary, I agree, yet I would certainly be cautious in how dogmatically I would require that particular policy. Maybe it would be appropriate for an “Area Missionary” to sign off on a particular candidate before they are approved for service in a local congregation.

  2. Jason,

    Thank you for your comment. I am aware of the heirarchal form of church polity, I am not sure why I forgot to mention it. As you said, even this form of polity has similar, if not the same, problems. I am not sure about all denominations, but the ones that I do know of still base their system on some sort of extra-biblical requirement. For instance some may require a certain level of education (and some may require no education at all). I do not know of any who are so close to the candidates in question as to determine whether or not they meet the qualifications laid out by Paul in 1 Timothy 3.

    Again, my experience with church polity is limited to only what I have studied. So there may be some who practice a church polity that do not fall into this same problem, but I know of none.

    You said, “Location, maturity, and the general life circumstances of the congregants of various churches sometimes necessitate the acquiring of a pastor from outside of their own flock . . .”

    I am not sure I agree that there is a necessity in acquiring a pastor. It seems more likely to me that if a small group of believers are gathering together and are staying in the word they would grow closer to Christ as individuals and as a group. This would lead to Christians who are qualified to oversee and to serve, and those who desired to do so would be recognized easily within the body.

    Although, I cannot deny that God could/would place a certain man in a group of believers. I might even go as far to say that God does this today, but I would also add the caveat that God does it today because we’ve probably screwed it up.

    I think your idea of an “Area Missionary” signing off on a particular candidate still falls into the same problem as other church polities. If I am a complete stranger to X congregation and they want me to be their pastor, I would most likely be a complete stranger to X Area Missionary. Thus, he would not really know if I meet the qualifications laid out by Paul.

    Again, Thank you very much for your comment. It was challenging and thought provoking. I look forward to hearing from you again.

    Lew

  3. Sorry, it has taken me so long to get back to you. I know you have moved on since your last comment but I have been meaning to respond and just haven’t found the time. Your responses to my comment were certainly rooted in an ideal that I hold to, but we do not live in an ideal world where people lay aside tradition and habit at the slightest prompting. My comments were meant to be practical first step prescriptions to the current ecclesiastical disease found in most denominations.

    I think I am right in observing that you think that most churches in the SBC, and elsewhere, don’t understand proper ecclesiology. If that is the case, and you are suggesting they change, then who will lead them in this change? Someone from their congregation? How will this change come about? I am simply suggesting that in order to for whole congregations to change their understanding of church leadership they must be taught such things from the Word. If no one in their congregation, past and present pastors included, has yet to take up this challenge don’t you think it is somewhat unlikely that this phenomenon will take place spontaneously? I sure that an insightful book written by an enlightened Christian could find its way into the hands of one of the congregants, but how many churches have you seen change their whole outlook on ecclesiology because someone other than their “hired pastor” told them about a great new book, even if that great new book happens to be the Bible. Anyway, I have taken enough of your time. Just think a little realism is necessary in our effort to effect change upon the Church.

    Jason

  4. Jason,

    Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I understand the dilemma you are talking about and we are faced with…

    You are right, who will lead them into this change?

    I taught “Sunday School” for two weeks last month, teaching on the House of God (wk 1) and then the Church of God (wk 2). There were probably about 30 people in both classes, of all 30 I think only a few started to consider what I was talking about. I hope that I at least put a seed in the minds of everyone but I know that there wer some who will completely reject what I taught. Why? Because they are tied to the institution, they have become dependant on the institution, they even think it makes them holy and close to Christ – and that is probabl the main reason why they are so attached to it. They fear if they let go of the institution they are letting go of Christ, instead of letting go of something that in a way is preventing them from getting close to Christ.

    Personally, I do not think it us up to use to change them, we really need to rely on the Holy Spirit for any “enlightenment.” In my opinion there is a reason for what is happening among the Church today. The only thing we can do is present the truth to people we encounter and disciple them.

    The Sunday school class will still have people who will thank God in their prayers for being able to “worship” Him in His “house.” They will still talk about “going” to church instead of “being” the church.

    In my opinion, a true understanding of the Church leads to more change than how we gather, it has implications for pastors, elders, deacons, etc. It has implications for vocational ministry, programs, etc.

    That is all I am going to say for now… I am not done with the 1 Timothy 3 topic… I have still been thinking about the deacon passages and will be blogging about it as soon as I get my thoughts together.

    Again, thank you for your comments,
    Lew

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